Skills Funding Agency

Helping apprentices on their career paths

Skills Funding Agency

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) is an executive agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. SFA funds skills training for further education in England. It supports over 1,000 colleges, private training organisations and employers with more than £4 billion of funding each year.

The goal: user centred design.

The platform limitations on the SFA's Apprenticeships application service prevented rapid testing and development of new functionality, which meant new releases would only be 2 or three times a year. Slow search results not displaying for up to 30 seconds elevated site drop offs. Responding to user needs was not something it was designed to do quickly, and for the SFA to achieve a target of three million apprenticeships within the current Government's tenure, vast improvements to the service were vital.

A more efficient user-friendly platform

Building from the research, it is designed from a “mobile first” development perspective; responsive design coupled with rapid prototyping techniques allowed starting the development process to be much quicker. We also drove the adoption of cloud hosting on Azure, which allowed for several advantages such as reduced time and cost spinning up test environments. Resulting in the automation of release process and testing. This achievement was partly responsible for a new and much shorter release frequency of 1 to 2 weeks. Responding to behaviours on site is easier, changes can be made faster; the platform can continue to evolve through continuous delivery, which helps in developing the search algorithms to provide more accurate and relevant results to users.

Satisfied users and increased applications

Since releasing the service 3 months ago we have seen over 70,000 activated accounts generating over 163,000 apprenticeship applications. User satisfaction ratings have climbed steadily from 20/30% at the MVP stage to over 50% this month.